|Everett Rainey may have resembled the youth on the left|
[The Rainey family, headed by James and Milly, with four daughters and eighteen-year-old Everett still on the family farm outside Pleasantville (became Spurgeon in 1867), Pike County, Indiana, had moved from southern Kentucky in the early 1850s. Everett had wanted to enlist early in the war, but his father had opposed him. In the spring of 1862 President Lincoln asked for 300,000 volunteers. James S. Gibbons wrote this poem, which Stephen Foster set to music. Copies of its sheet music swept the country. Listen to We Are Coming Father Abraham]
In late April of 1862, the Rainey family heard through a neighbor that at Shiloh, Tennessee, the Federal army under a general named Grant had bested a Confederate army led by General Beauregard, but several southern raiders had come north and harassed people near Louisville and Cincinnati, stealing horses and grain and tearing up railroad track. The Ohio River flowed not so far a distance south of their farm, making southern Indiana vulnerable.
The rumor in August that Kentucky was preparing to secede from the union gave the war new reality. Kentucky was just across the Ohio River. Because of Lincoln's earlier call for recruits, Indiana was forming several volunteer regiments.
That night at supper Everett laid out his plan. James sat thoughtfully, Milly wept quietly, and the four girls left the table to cry together in their bedroom upstairs. James finally spoke. “Do your duty, boy. Don’t shirk and never ever be a coward.”
The next morning, August 16, 1862, Everett shouldered a knapsack filled with fried chicken and corn bread and left for Lynnville, Indiana. His mother Milly stood on the porch with Elizabeth and Melvina. He kissed them and Milly, gripping her apron, smiled bravely. James came up from the barn, patted him on the back and silently turned away. Serena and Cynthia walked with Everett to the road and waved until he stopped looking over his shoulder.
He stopped by the Dougans to pay his respects and tell Nancy, the girl he was sweet on, goodbye. In Lynnville, Everett located the recruiter at a folding table in front of the post office. He signed the papers - committing himself to a three-year enlistment - and was sworn in as a soldier in the 91st Regiment of Indiana Volunteers, Company B under Captain William Bogan.
|Lynnville, Warrick County, Indiana, was near Everett's home.|
As time wore on, they adjusted to camp life and each man understood his role in the unit. Company B was taking on an identity. Orders finally came. They were to march south into middle Kentucky to Camp Cumback. Sergeant Ferguson came through camp barking orders. “Pack up everything; get your rifles ready! Draw extra bullets and charges from the supply area!” Pandemonium reigned. Men worked at a fevered pitch. In less than an hour B Company stood in ranks, prepared to set out.
The column marched down the road, raising dust, enveloping men in the rear ranks. Life couldn’t be more miserable. Near the rear, Everett suffered with other privates. They were ferried across the Ohio River and in late afternoon entered Henderson, Kentucky. Company B was dispatched to a dusty mown hay field bordering a stream and ordered to set up tents. Afterward, they busied themselves preparing a hot supper.
|Henderson, Kentucky, across the Ohio River from southern Indiana|
Orders came to break camp and move out at ten o’clock. With much effort the unit left for Camp Cumback at eleven, reaching it in mid-afternoon. Covered with mud, the ‘skinners were angry at the animals, the officers were angry at the non-coms and the privates received grief from everyone.
The units preceding Company B had churned the camp to mud, with water-filled ruts leading in all directions. Company B was directed to a relatively untouched area, which they soon muddied as grumbling men slogged about with bales of straw, breaking them apart to cover the ground so they could pitch their tents.
Over the next few days the weather moderated and the encampment dried out. Tempers mellowed, banjos and fiddles came out after evening meals and most joined in singing. Spirits improved as units meshed into efficient fighters. The soldiers of Company B could march up to fence lines and fire, reload and fire faster than the other companies. Pride was evident in their step and on their faces.
Late October turned cold. Leaves, already brown and orange, began to drop. The air was crisp. Mornings found everything covered with rime. Despite the chill, the men were active, eager to perform their duties. Every company in camp itched to get into the fight. Finally, on the evening of October 20th, Capt. Bogan called his sergeants to his tent for a meeting. An hour later, they walked among the men, speaking quietly to them. As taps echoed, dozens of pairs of eyes bored into overhead tent canvases. Few slept.
As the sun crept over the eastern rim of the hills, Company B was already moving southward towards Madisonville. Scouts had reported back to the regiment that Confederate forces had congregated west of Nashville, and were sending small units of troops over the Kentucky border. Company B’s mission was to scout south and engage any forward detachments.
In quick march, Company B covered a lot of ground, stopping briefly for a meal; pushed on, eager to meet the enemy. They approached Madisonville at sunset. As they rounded a curve, shots rang out, and a soldier grabbed his arm. Men dropped on their bellies, peering toward the gunfire. Impossible in the graying evening to make out “butternut” uniforms even if the enemy had been standing in the open. The wounded man’s blue tunic showed crimson where the bullet sliced his arm.
Capt. Bogan directed half of his men to move down the sunken road under cover and then double back through the trees at the pasture’s edge. Hearts pounding, they did as they’d practiced.
Dragged to the protection of a fallen log, the injured soldier’s wound was examined and bound. The young trooper was shaking, whimpering in fear and pain. A non-com quietly talked to him, calming him.
There was yelling and several shots fired. The men sent forward emerged from the trees, hardly discernible in the dusk, but more than expected. They’d captured six rebs. The captain took in the situation. No further sign of the enemy; one man injured; six captives. Knowing his men depended on him, he issued orders firmly. “We’ll move north in the dark for a couple of miles. Sergeant, take six men and cover the rear of the column. Private Rainey, choose five men to make sure the prisoners are secure. Let’s go, troopers!”
Carrying out his orders, the company moved rapidly up the road to locate shelter in a copse of trees. They tied up their prisoners, set guards on them, and rolled up in blankets to try to sleep. Pickets were set every two hours during the night.
At dawn the men started back to the main camp, chewing hardtack as they marched. The pace wasn’t as brisk as the day before, but fast nevertheless. Arriving at camp after dark, Company B formed up in straight files and marched smartly into the area, their prisoners secured in the center of their ranks.
November was cold and wet. On November 6, Col. John W. Foster [his biography HERE] ordered Company B to Smithland, a small community near the mouth of the Cumberland River where it meets the Ohio.
wasn’t raining, it snowed. Camp life was
difficult, the men always cold.
Those not on picket or guard duty huddled around fires by day and
retreated into their tents when the light failed, shivering in damp bedding. Wind
often blew down tents, forcing them to crowd into tents still standing or take
shelter in wagons.
|Smithland, Kentucky, where the Cumberland River meets the Ohio|
On December 7, a detachment was sent to Dycusburgh to retrieve prisoners. Everett wasn’t selected, but wished he had been. Sitting around or moving through the muddy camp drained his energy. The cold made prisoners of them all.
On Christmas Eve, orders came to march west of camp to the Cumberland River to raze a rebel blockade. The Confederates were attempting to block the Ohio River to hinder Federal troop movement and supplies being shipped to Fort Donelson from Louisville.
|View from Fort Donelson of the Cumberland River. It and Fort Henry were captured by General Grant and Flag Officer Foote in February, 1862, opening the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers to Union control.|
Two companies marched out. At the Cumberland River they discovered Federal troops in the vicinity had already put an end to the nuisance. It had proved a diversion for bored troops, but they grumbled because of having to march on Christmas.
They spent the remainder of the winter and early spring guarding enemy soldiers prior to their transport to permanent prison camps. The Federal army’s activities in lower Kentucky, eastern Arkansas and Missouri were yielding many rebel prisoners. Most were funneled through Camp Cumback.
The troops erected log huts to shelter themselves from the cold, but as winter worsened, they were forced to live in even closer quarters, and sickness struck the camp. In this environment, the men were vulnerable to any illness showing its ugly face.
Everett was stricken with measles in January, 1863, spending several weeks in bed, so sick the camp doctor at one point thought he would die. When he did recover, his eyesight was impaired. Then he was stricken with pneumonia, a high fever and sore throat for several weeks. When he finally left his sickbed, he was skin and bones and very weak. Because of his condition, he was unable to accompany the several forays the company made.
On March 30 company B was ordered to Clarksville, Tennessee, to guard transports coming up the Cumberland River. Most of the unit went with Lt. Clark. Capt. Bogan stayed in camp to prepare for the next operation.
Company B was intensely alert. Would a rebel cavalry unit charge in to disrupt the unloading of the barges? Guerrilla activity also was rampant in the area. Many rebs actually lived at home, venturing out with their leaders when Union units least expected it, then melting back into the forest and dispersing to their homes, returning to daily chores as farmers, lawyers, blacksmiths and laborers. They were difficult to stop and impossible to catch.
Night guarding was the hardest. Everyone was tense and uneasy, every night sound jumping hearts into throats. No one relaxed until relieved, and then slept fitfully. The unit returned to Camp Cumback on April 8, happy to be back in one piece.
Capt. Bogan took twenty men up the Cumberland to Fort Donelson to collect prisoners, returning with many “seshes”. The outfit’s stay in western Kentucky was ending. Orders arrived for Company B to break camp.
On April 22, Everett received a furlough, its intent to return him home for some home cooking and proper rest. He got rides on supply wagons to Evansville and then took the stage to Pleasantville.
His family was surprised to see him and shocked at his condition. Of course, his mother Milly fussed over him, clucking to herself that the army was killing her child. The rest and good food improved his condition. When he reported for duty on May 2, he had gained some weight and felt better. But a toll had been taken and Everett was never a healthy man from that time forward.
Also known as "Rally 'Round the Flag," this song became popular in 1862 - Battle Cry of Freedom HERE